Gibran Hamdan is a humble guy, a quality he comes by honestly.
“I know I have a long way to go to get up to speed on the nuances of the CFL game,” the Argonauts’ newest quarterback said on Wednesday from his home in Minneapolis, a day after the club traded for Dalton Bell. “The key for me is to assimilate to the game.”
So Hamdan, who was on the Argos’ radar since the short Bart Andrus era until they signed him as a free agent through 2011, won’t be like some U.S. quarterbacks who arrive in Canada thinking they have a ticket back to the American game already punched.
Hamdan didn’t have to fire up his computer and search Google for the CFL to get an idea of where his football talents were taking him.
His respect for the CFL firmly is in place, months before he will take his first snap. He is engaged to be married to Jenny Grant, the granddaughter of the legendary former Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Bud Grant.
“When I told him I was negotiating with the Argos, he told me to mention the Fog Bowl (also known as the 1962 Grey Cup, won in Toronto by Grant’s Blue Bombers and played over two days because of the fog),” Hamdan said.
“I have such a reverence for the game and country that was instilled in me.”
Hamdan spent the past two seasons as the third-string quarterback with the Buffalo Bills, and as well as some stints with a few other NFL teams, was the NFL Europa MVP in 2006 while playing for Andrus. Hamdan probably could have taken more money to remain in the U.S., but he did not want to sit on the bench anymore.
“I had options,” Hamdan said.
“But I’m looking for an opportunity to help lead a team to a championship, to make an imprint on an organization, and this is the best place for me to do that. I don’t want to toil on a roster with no role. That became difficult.”
Argos head coach Jim Barker took no time to warm up to Hamdan.
“There’s a true humbleness about him regarding the task at hand,” Barker said. “He has a respect for the differences in the game. It’s something he takes very seriously.”
Hamdan, 29, was born in San Diego to Latif, a Palestinian, and Laila, a Pakistani. When Gibran was three years old, the family moved to Kuwait. In 1991, the family was on a trip to the U.S., when Iraq invaded Kuwait, an attack that destroyed the Hamdan family home.
No wonder Hamdan can’t conceive of taking anything for granted.
“I was too young to relate to the (seriousness) of that, but I look back and I draw from it,” Hamdan said. “My dad is and was a successful engineer with a lot of money in the bank, and he lost all of it in a second.
“My dad is a 5-foot-5, 5-foot-6 guy and here I am at 6-foot-4 (and 220 pounds). He never pushed me to do anything (Hamdan did not want to do), but he instilled in me a true work ethic.”
Barker wouldn’t go so far as to say Hamdan is his big-fish, off-season addition as far as quarterbacks go. Hamdan has not played a down in the CFL, but Barker sees the potential.
“It takes a lot to get him down,” Barker said of Hamdan’s on-field resilience. “He’s an accurate thrower, and does well with pocket pressure. There’s not a lot of wasted time.”
Barker has Hamdan and Bell under contract, and when camp opens in June, wants to have four men competing for the No. 1 role.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for somebody to sink his teeth into,” Barker said. “Personnel is a never-ending business. One of these guys is going to establish himself as our starting quarterback.”
Riders re-sign Durant
Speaking of quarterbacks, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed Darian Durant to an extension and also re-signed running back Wes Cates, who had been a free agent.